2014 was the coolest harvest year since 2001. It was a year with pronounced regional contrasts. Abundant snowmelt (the Andes could be seen covered in snow throughout most of the harvest season) would have made this a very large harvest, except that everything slowed down with the cool weather in February, March and April, and the severe September frost. The frost affected predominantly Eastern and Northern Mendoza and San Juan, but also some parts of the Uco Valley and Lujan de Cuyo. In the end, the harvest was delayed by one to two weeks and overall the yields were average.
A great achievement for this year was the certification of the Argentina Sustainability Protocol by Bodegas de Argentina. The project started four years ago when Laura Catena came back from California with the idea to apply sustainable practices in the Catena Vineyards. Vineyard manager Luis Reginato teamed up with the Catena Institute of Wine to adapt the California protocol to Mendoza.
Many of the practices were already endemic to our Catena culture of green winegrowing, but having a formal process helped us take advantage of sustainability at all levels of our family winery, from the vineyards to the winery to human resources.
The beneficial effects of using green forage between rows, natural compost and judicious water management convinced us to attempt a certification process for our whole wine region. We brought our protocol to Bodegas de Argentina and worked with the Catena Institute, the Universidad Nacional de Cuyo and the INV (National Viticulture Institute) to provide a certifiable protocol for the region, which was formally approved in November of 2013. The protocol has a strong humanistic approach, encouraging the provision of social benefits for employees and child-care and nutrition for the families of seasonal workers.
2014 HARVEST IN THE CATENA ZAPATA VINEYARDS
ADRIANNA VINEYARD: SOUTH AMERICA'S GRAND CRU VINEYARD - Gualtallary, Tupungato, Uco Valley, Mendoza, 4757 ft elevation
This year was a real test for the Adrianna Vineyard because the weather was extremely cold compared to average temperatures. To put it into perspective, this year would be a Burgundian year by the Winkler scale. In spite of the cooler temperatures, ripening happened to perfection and we predict phenomenal ageability for the 2014 Adrianna Malbec and the White Bones and White Stones Chardonnays. This year we continued the meticulous zonification of the Adrianna Vineyard and harvested 137 different lots. We are on track with the Catena Institute of Wine's goal of making the Adrianna Vineyard the most studied vineyard in the world.
ANGÉLICA VINEYARD, Lunlunta, Maipú, Mendoza, 3018 ft elevation
Although surrounding vineyards were affected by frost and hail, our 80-year-old Angelica vineyard was fortunately spared this year. Yields were at their historic yield of 2-3 tons per acre depending on the lot. We farm Angelica in a very natural way with wild forage between the rows and the leftover leaves and buds are used as natural fertilizer. The extra humidity was just what this vineyard needed to look healthy throughout the harvest season. We anticipated some potential rot in the area because of the scattered seasonal rains, and our viticultural team was right to harvest a little earlier than usual in the last two weeks of March. The perfume of the lot 18 Angelica Malbec that goes into Catena Alta is one to be remembered.
DOMINGO VINEYARD, Villa Bastías, Tupungato, Uco Valley, Mendoza, 3675 ft elevation
The Domingo Vineyard was also affected by the late September frost and yields were down by about 30%. The combination of lower yields and the well-drained stony/limestone soils allowed the vineyard to withstand the scattered seasonal rains with no rot. The resulting cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay will be very elegant with optimal acidity and dense flavors.
NICASIA VINEYARD, Altamira, Uco Valley, Mendoza, 3593 ft elevation
After two years of in-depth study of the Altamira district, analyzing climate, geology, soils and historical background, we were able to receive formal approval for the use of the Paraje Altamira appellation on labels. This work had to be done because individuals had trademarked the name and were not allowing the area's other rightful vineyard owners to use the Altamira denomination. We are pleased that the INV (our National Viticulture Institute) carefully reviewed the request and granted us and the other growers of Altamira the right to use this historical Appellation. Nicolas Catena is particularly pleased because his father Domingo Catena was very fond of the Altamira Malbec for its dark color and violet aromatics. Our Nicasia Vineyard did not experience any frost or hail damage and the quality was remarkably even throughout the vineyard. We continue to find great potential for both Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon in the shallow, well-drained soils of the Nicasia Vineyard.
LA PIRÁMIDE VINEYARD, Agrelo, Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza, 3117 ft elevation
We did have some frost in this vineyard in September, which reduced yields by about 25%. Like in all cool vintages, the old Cabernet Sauvignon lot which is planted with our old Mendoza selection was a star; it is very old world in style with sharp black fruit and a little earthiness, which bodes well for the 2014 Nicolas Catena Zapata.